By DAVID A. COOK
By now, many of you have heard about my proposal to increase the cost of membership for Local 655 partners.
The money that you pay to Local 655 allows this Local to function. Whether it’s paying for our attorneys who help us represent our partners when they are treated unfairly by their employer, or simply keeping the lights on and the water running in your union hall, there is a cost to run this organization.
I don’t take our responsibilities lightly. I’m always looking for ways to save money and reduce costs, and no savings is too small to matter.
The last few years have been expensive for Local 655. We fought “right-to-work” for-less, and it was an expensive fight. Local 655 invested significant funds in winning that battle. It paid off: we overwhelmingly defeated a law that would lower pay and reduce benefits for millions of Missourians, our partner’s included. We made politicians trying to force it down our throats think twice before proposing it again.
As a result, we were able to bargain the best contract for our Schnucks partners that we’ve seen in 20 years. Without defeating so-called right-to-work, that contract would not have been possible.
We also invested in raising the minimum wage for all Missourians. And while the measure passed with massive support in 2018, it was still an expensive fight. But as a result, thousands of Local 655 partners will benefit from wage increases every year until 2022 as minimum wage climbs. Those higher wages at the floor allow us to raise the ceiling, ultimately raising the pay of all workers.
NO RAISES EARLIER
We haven’t raised the cost of membership in Local 655 for six years, even though we had the opportunity to do so. When UFCW International passes a per capita increase — that is to say, when they raise the amount of money every local is required to send them based on the number of partners they have — this local had the right to simply automatically pass that cost on to you. I declined to do this twice.
At that time, I had no desire to increase the cost of your membership, because I felt the more appropriate action was simply to absorb that cost ourselves. During that time, I knew we’d be asking a lot of our partners: I asked you to lend a hand in political fights and help us continue to battle for better contracts.
I do not regret absorbing those costs. But the choice to do so meant that, one day, I’d have to ask you to consider an increase in membership costs in order to keep operating at the level that best serves all of our partners.
As your president, you elected me to represent you and fight for the nearly 10,000 partners just like you, who work hard every day for a better life.
I do not have the power to simply increase your cost of membership without your approval. On the contrary, you and your co-workers must vote to accept this increase.
AGREED IT’S NECESSARY
That’s why I’m writing today. That’s why we asked our partners in recent telephone town hall survey calls whether or not they agreed that increasing costs was necessary to continue our mission. I’m happy to say that the majority of you that responded agreed that this was a necessary step.
In the coming days and weeks, you’ll be hearing more from us about why this move is necessary. You’ll see information about the times and locations of our votes around the state, and you’ll be hearing more from me about the practical challenges that lie before us that must be addressed.
I’d ask you to consider what it means to be a union partner. I’d ask you to consider the cost of being a union partner in this day and age, where it seems there are almost relentless attacks from all sides, like corporate CEOs wanting to reduce your pay and benefits so as to pad their own pockets.
I’d ask you to consider what this Union has done, and what we plan to do, on behalf of working people all across Missouri.
I’d ask you to think about your benefits, your wages, your rights on the job, and your power as a partner in the largest local union in the state of Missouri.
I think if you consider all that, you’ll agree that this increase is a small price to pay for the certainty of good union contracts, a strong middle class, and a better life for all our partners.